Cryptozoology + Paleontology = Awesomeness

Paleontologist Darren Naish and artists John Conway and C.M. Kosemen have collaborated to explore cryptids from around the world and speculate about how these monsters might actually fit into our world from an ecological and biological point of view. Their work is titled Cryptozoologicon: The Biology, Evolution, and Mythology of Hidden Animals (Irregular Books, 2013). Based on Annalee Newitz’s review at i09, it looks really interesting. Newitz writes,

What’s so fascinating about this book, written by paleontologist Darren Naish, and artists John Conway and C.M. Kosemen, is that it respects both the legends behind these monsters and the science that debunks them. It’s a complicated merger between speculative fiction and scientific analysis, which the group also showcased in their previous collaboration, All Yesterdays.In that book, the group explored new directions in how to depict ancient animals, with often mind-blowing results. WithCryptozoologicon, they are trying something more speculative still. They’ve put together an extensive collection of cryptids from around the world, drawn them in gorgeous panels, and provided both a scientific debunkery as well as an enthusiastic, fictional endorsement of the creature’s existence.

Each entry contains three sections: (1) the accounts of the creature that others have given, (2) an evaluation of those accounts, and (3) a speculative description of what that creature might be, if in fact it existed (and apparently their assessments of this range from “no way” to “well, maybe”).

For example, the writers come to the following creative explanation for the notorious chupacabra:

Clearly, the Chupacabra is a semi-bipedal, nocturnal, predatory marsupial, the likes of which is unknown to science. Equipped with a long, robust tail, forelimbs proportioned something like those of a primate, and an ability to leap and climb, this sharp-toothed predator (which we name Deinoroo caprophagus) is convergently similar to the Australasian macropods in some respects but is actually a very large opossum. Indeed, the formidable dentition, strong jaws and enlarged upper canines of opossums required little evolutionary modification to produce a large-bodied predator.

This whole project sound a lot like what I have attempted to do with the various eldritch races in Into the Wonder as well as my (as yet unpublished) musings about how Jersey devils, Ozark howlers, unicorns, and other creatures of myth might work from an evolutionary/paleontological perspective.

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